The end of civilization is near: dumb products on Amazon prove it

Matthew Grocoff

October 28, 2014

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: Green Living

Browse through Amazon and there's no shortage of gadgets that will convince you that the end of days is near. Once upon time we humans entertained ourselves by dancing around the campfires on the savannah. Now we settle for no less than binging on The Extreme Real Kardashian Housewives of Jersey Shore: Bachelorette Dance Edition.

Once we came down out of the tree tops and stopped hunting and gathering we began seeking ways of making ourselves increasingly comfortable. But have we hit peak comfort? Are we overcapitalized on what we think makes us happy?

One could argue that it all started with the electric can opener or the TV dinner. But now there are entire airline catalogs filled with useless trash that do not make us more content or happy.

We need to start asking ourselves what does a truly good product look like and how do we make it? The International Living Future Institute is launching the Living Product Challenge to reimagine the way we make things. They ask us to "Imagine a product whose very existence builds soil; creates habitat; nourishes the human spirit; and provides inspiration for personal, political and economic change. Imagine true sustainability in the goods we use in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities - Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative."

Here's a list of a few items I found on Amazon that will make you laugh . . . or cry. I suggest laughing first. Then heeding the call of the Living Product Challenge and imagine products that bring true and sustained joy to our lives without degrading the beautiful network of life around us.

Feel free to find your own Amazon favorites and Tweet them to me @mattgrooff with #deadproduct. Or send me examples from local craftspeople and artisans that you believe are #livingproduct. And now, without further ado:

Hutzler Hutzler 571B: Banana Slicer

device for slicing bananas

Is slicing bananas making your life miserable? Save the therapy money and buy this instead. It's been reviewed 5,002 times. Here are a couple samples (unedited) - check out other reviews here:


"Thanks to the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer i no longer need to slice my banana's with my machete, window fan or lawn mower!?"

"No more winning for you, Mr. Banana!:

"For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. 'Use a knife!' they say. Well…my parole officer won't allow me to be around knives. 'Shoot it with a gun!' Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger."

Here's one from a disappointed buyer: "A real [pitty], all the bananas in the country I live are curved the [oppostie] direction so the product was absolutely useless."

Wheelmate Steering Wheel Attachable Work Surface Tray

steering wheel tray

This attaches to the wheel of your car . . . What more can I say?

While it's designed to be used as a mobile office, some suggest it can also be used as a baby changing table. Here's one disappointed reviewer (only gave it 3 stars):

"3.0 out of 5 stars

"Not so good as baby changing table, I read some 4 and 5 star reviews by those who used this device successfully to change a baby while driving. On that basis, I bought one. I put my baby on it and drove for over an hour. It did not change. Same baby. I am glad it worked for some people but I will be returning mine. (The steering wheel desk.)"

Doggie Treadmill

treadmill for dogs

The pet industry is a multi-billion dollar financial and environmental sink. Yet dogs make great companions and keep us healthy by forcing us to get up off the couch and go for a walk. Now you don't have to worry about health and happiness any longer. Any vestige of responsible pet ownership you may harbor can now be dispensed with a machine.

Here's a lovely review from a satisfied customer who no longer has to stress about spending time with her beloved pet.

"A Godsend. Thank god for the invention of doggy treadmills; Keisha is trotting happily beside me as I type this on my Kindle fire. She does all the work and and I read or watch an episode of West Wing. . . . . It will markedly improve your life with your beloved companion and decrease the stress of trying to find the time/proper outlet for a high energy dog. Worth every penny."

All photos taken from the Amazon product page.


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